Statement adopted by UFPPC on Jan. 22 supporting Iraqi women in their struggle for equal rights and calling on US occupation authorities to use their influence to resist the return of sharia law in Iraq.
For forty years, women in Iraq have been protected by a civil code with some of the most modern elements to be found in the Muslim world. These have included a prohibition of marriage below the age of 18, of arbitrary divorce, and of automatic preferences accorded to men in child custody and property inheritance disputes.
Saddam Hussein's regime did not interfere with those rights. But in late December the Provisional Governing Council set up by the US ordered that family laws protecting women's rights shall be "cancelled," to be replaced by the provisions of inegalitarian Islamic doctrines called sharia. The change was made in secret, and shocked many in Iraqi society.
Zakia Ismael Hakki, a retired woman judge, is an outspoken opponent of the Council's new order. She says that since 1959 civil family law has developed in Iraq to give women a "half-share in society" and an opportunity to advance as individuals, irrespective of religion. Hakki says: "This new law will send Iraqi families back to the Middle Ages. It will allow men to have four or five or six wives. It will take away children from their mothers. It will allow anyone who calls himself a cleric to open an Islamic court in his house and decide about who can marry and divorce and have rights. We have to stop it." (Pamela Constable, "Women in Iraq Decry Decision to Curb Rights," Washington Post, January 15, 2004)
UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY calls on Americans to support the struggle of Iraqi women for equal rights, and we call on the US occupation authorities to use their influence to resist the return of sharia law in Iraq. It would be ironic indeed if, having claimed to come to Iraq in the name of modern democracy, the US countenanced regression in the area of women's rights.